Page 27 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 40

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BUTOVSKY / CANADIAN JEWISH WRITERS
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o f East Eu ropean imm igrants. Most o f the newly-arrived settled
in the metropolitan centers o f Montreal (fully 60%), To ron to ,
and W innipeg where they laid down a form idab le network o f
social, religious, political, and educational institutions. T h e se
helped p ro long traditional form s o f communal life by p rov id ing a
tightly-knit cultural setting from which the imm igrants and their
children could re spond to the compe lling yet d isrup tive a ttrac­
tions o f the new world.
Like all imm igran t literature, the writing o f C anad ian Jew s
reflects the exper ience o f uproo tedne ss and resettlement re su lt­
ing in a complex consciousness where notions o f the self, rooted
in the memorialized but dissolving past, confronts its own often
pain fu l transform ation . Th a t the transform ation s o f identity
were ju stif ied by the desire to participate in the exp anded social,
political and econom ic opportun ities, in no way dim in ished the
sense o f abandonmen t. No modern Jew ish writer has been u n a f­
fected by the psychic tension o f dwelling simultaneously in two
worlds. While Canad ian Jew ish literature o ffe r s nothing quite so
instructive an exp re ssion o f this dilemma as that which open s the
chapter o f Jew ish-American fiction in Abraham C ah an ’s guilt-
ridden David Levinsky, it has its beg inn ing in the poetry and
fiction o f a brilliant writer whose career was shadowed and ulti­
mately silenced by the irreconcilability o f oppo sing dem ands .
COMMANDING PR ESENCE
Abraham Moses Klein (1909-1972 ) is the first distinctive Jew ­
ish voice in C anad ian literature, the only poet to bring the full
range o f traditional Ju d a ic sources and beliefs to the secu lar mode
o f modern poetry. Born in Montreal to recently-arrived p ious
Russian imm igrants, he was raised and educated in the vibrant
Yiddish enclave, a separa te world su rrounded and isolated by the
Anglophone a rea on the west, the F rancophone on the east. From
family, heder, syn agogu e and yeshiva he acquired his deep
knowledge o f sacred texts and commentaries, modern Hebrew
literature, Y iddish folklore, Zionist ideology. For a time Klein
considered the rabbinate, but decided on the study o f langu age
and literature, then proceeded to take a law degree , following
that p rofession most o f his life. In add ition , he served fo r many
years as ed itor o f an Anglo-Jewish weekly, acted as publicist for
the Canadian Jew ish Congress, and at one time stood as un suc­